Photo: AFC/Mongolian Football Federation

The Philippines were held into a goalless draw with Yemen to open the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers, but manager Thomas Dooley was optimistic that the Azkals can get it done.

The former United States veteran is glad that they have followed their game plan to near-perfection despite their failure of scoring, which was credited in part to the familiarity of the playing surface in Ulaanbaatar.

“Not really because most of the time we play on turf,” he said Wednesday afternoon, referring to the pitch at the MFF Football Center. Prior to the group B matches, the Azkals trained at the Rizal Memorial in Manila which has a similar turf.

“About the game, I’m not unhappy. So I am pleased, we saw a lot of good things in the game, how we played,” he then said.

He then admitted that the match would have a different tone if they have Bochum winger Gerrit Holtman there.

“It’s difficult to say, if he would have been there maybe we would have scored. I would say, if we would have everybody together, we would have won the game.”

Afterwards, Dooley found solace in the thought that a point is better than none at all as the focus shifts to the hosts on Saturday as they seek their first win.

Mongolia were beaten by an 85th-minute penalty to deny them a fantastic draw against Palestine.

“Overall, there’s nothing lost yet.”

Goalkeeper Neil Etheridge said that there are some similarities between the Mongolian capital and the English city of Birmingham, where he played for the namesake club in the EFL Championship.

“The climate is a little bit hotter than in the UK, but it’s not too bad. The people have been amazing and made us feel very welcome.”

It was his first time in Mongolia, as he was unavailable for the Azkals eleven years ago when they were beaten in the return fixture of the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers.

Wearing the armband for the first time, Etheridge calmly passed his first major test, but not before that minor scare in the 38th minute in which he was called upon to thwart Ahmed Al-Sarori.

“We’re here to play football. Everything’s been spot-on, and we’re really happy as a team.”